I couldn’t be more impressed.
Over the years I have dealt with several chairs of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as a natural part of what I do as founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, and over the years I have even become close friends with some. Remain so. But it was and is FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair who I respect and hold in the highest esteem — when it comes to making the issues of the poor, the under-served, the unbanked and the under-banked in America a priority during her chairwoman-ship.
Bair is not playing a game, going through the motions, nor does she see this work I and we do as a public affairs sideline. She sees it, rightly so, as mainline, and a 21st century opportunity for the banking establishment in America. 50 million Americans with no bank account or severely under-banked, a $1 trillion annual untapped consumer spending force (Black and Latino consumer spending power), and $10-11 billion being diverted to "alternative financial services" (check cashers, payday lenders, rent-to-own stores and the like) tells me that there is an emerging market opportunity here that just may revitalize American banking in and for the 21st century. In other words, the message here is "not black, white, brown or yellow — it’s green (the color of money in America)."
Additionally, Chairwoman Bair is a woman with a serious pedigree; including senior posts within the U.S. Treasury Department where she helped to innovative the Treasury Office of Financial Education, amongst other positive initiatives that serve untapped reservoirs of hope in our society, and future opportunities in the American economy. In short, she is smart. Damn smart.
She is seriously focused on the issues of financial literacy, the unbanked and then under-banked, as are we here at Operation HOPE. One of the issues we raised during her time with us at the HOPE Center in Anacostia was the "Silver Rights" Bill recently proposed by HOPE global spokesman Ambassador Andrew Young and myself to Congress; seeking to make basic electronic banking access a universal (human) right for all Americans. Of course leaving Congress to do its job in its way, Chairwoman Bair made it clear she supports our aim of making basic banking access available to all Americans.
We will work closely with Chairwoman Bair, as a partner, substantive cheerleader, and as a friend, in the weeks and months to come, whether it be our national HOPE-Banking on Our Future/FDIC "MoneySmart" financial literacy partnership, or issues of the unbanked or the under-banked. The FDIC has a strong and reliable partner and friend in Operation HOPE. They deserve America’s support, and Chairwoman Bair has earned it.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant